Tears were inevitable for Julie Callaghan Friday as she was the centre of attention at the Chilliwack RCMP detachment, surrounded by firefighters, Mounties, CN Rail officers and others.
Callaghan’s brave attempt to rescue a man in a wheelchair stuck on rail tracks in 2018 was honoured with the Carnegie Medal for Extraordinary Heroism.
The president of the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was in Chilliwack to give Callaghan her medal.
In describing Callaghan’s actions that fateful day on May 26, 2018, Eric Zahren pointed out that the word “unsuccessful rescue” is not a term the foundation ever uses.
|The front of Julie Callaghan’s Carnegie Medal for Extraordinary Heroism given to her on Dec. 13, 2019. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)|
“In our long experience in these matters, it’s been shown there is no such thing as an unsuccessful rescue,” Zahren said. “Even in cases where, despite the best efforts of the rescuer, the victim does not survive, we know that the rescuer’s actions have made all the difference to the families… and to the victim’s themselves in their final terrifying moments were given hope and comfort by another individual who had come for them.”
Callaghan was in her car on Broadway Avenue at the rail crossing that day in 2018. Matthew Jarvis was crossing the tracks when the rear wheels of his wheelchair got stuck in the tracks. Callaghan and another woman sprung into action trying to free him from the predicament.
The entire action took about 15 seconds, and at the last second she tried to escape but a train travelling at 80 kilometres an hour crashed into her hand, killing Jarvis.
Her hand was severely damaged and on Oct. 21, 2019, she had three fingers and part of it amputated.
In receiving the medal, Callaghan was emotional, thanking the first responders on the scene, firefighters and police officers.
“I don’t really know what to say, thank you,” she said. “It’s been an overwhelming year for sure and it really hasn’t stopped, it just keeps going. I’ve got all your backs if you are in trouble. I’d do it all again.”